Baltimore Blues Society

Modulating the natural thorniness of his bark to suit the scenario, Big Dave McLean traverses a vocal range from gruffly purring Tampa Red's "Dead Cat on the Line" to dropping the 500-pound sledge on the bummer that has always been Floyd Jones' "Tough Times." Meet Winnipeg's own Howlin' Wolf. Since the late '60's, Canada's legendarily growling guitarist/harpist has gotten around, seen some things, met some folks, waxed some records. (If you're ever lucky enough to share beers with him, be sure to ask for some tales about his buddy Muddy, with whom he toured at Waters' personal request.) Here, McLean enters into a mutually beneficial collaboration with producer/player Steve Dawson, someone who can always be counted on to tailor you a band, thread in his own moody guitars, freely blur the lines between acoustic and electric textures, and paint a sonic atmosphere. (Think: Jim Byrnes, Kely Joe Phelps, or, most recently, Colleen Rennison.) That sonic atmosphere is what spooks the sarcophagus spiritual "Oh, Mr. Charlie, Oh" with tremelo shivers and pedal steel, and likewise casts a pall over "The Fallen," McLean's elegy to his brother. Vengeance tap dances to Kevin McKendree's saloon piano on "Don't Get Mad, Get Even." Tom Waits' "Mr. Siegal" shambles down the sidewalk with a bourbon-breath wobble. Eventually though, Big Dave ditches everyone for seven minutes of quality alone-time with a rattling National Style guitar, out of which he paws a far meatier "Devil Got My Woman" than Skip James could ever muster. At 60some, McLean is Faded But Not Gone. Not by a long shot. (Dennis Rozanski)

Year: 
2015